USA down 15 in second quarter to down 3 at half to up 19 at end of third. Woah
The United States men's basketball team survived a first-half scare vs. Australia in the first Olympic semifinal on Thursday, turning a 15-point second-quarter deficit into a runaway 97-78 victory. The Americans will play France, which held off Luka Doncic and Slovenia, 90-89, in the other semifinal matchup, for the gold medal on Friday night. Australia will face Slovenia for the bronze.
Kevin Durant, who has already etched his name in history as the United States' all-time leading Olympic scorer, was spectacular again, keeping Team USA afloat when nobody else could get anything going. Durant finished with 23 points and was a switching, rim-protecting force on the defensive end, which is ultimately where the Americans won this game.
Shooting just 2-for-14 from 3 in the first half, Team USA cranked up the defensive pressure to start creating transition buckets and open 3s en route to a 31-6 run (with a 20-0 stretch sprinkled in) over the end of the second quarter and the start of the third. The Americans shot 7-for-14 from 3 over the third and fourth quarters, with Devin Booker and Jayson Tatum heating up on the cleaner looks.
The U.S. overcomes a 15-point deficit to advance to the gold medal game for the 4th straight Olympics, where they will face the winner of Slovenia-France.— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) August 5, 2021
The comeback was sparked by a 20-0 run that spanned the 2nd and 3rd quarters, with Kevin Durant scoring 10 of those points. pic.twitter.com/2OYR10qicD
Heading into the fourth quarter, Team USA had swung the game 34 points, from down 15 to up 19 with a 48-14 run. The U.S. continues to start games slowly, even sloppily, but over time the depth of their talent advantage has proven to be too much.
"A lot of teams are expecting us to fold early," Durant said after the game. "…We had a lot of guys with straight faces when we were down 15. 'Strong faces' is what Pop said."
Jrue Holiday's defense continues to get the recognition it deserves. After an all-time defensive showing throughout the NBA playoffs and particularly in the Finals, Holiday was central to Team USA holding Australia's Patty Mills -- who was getting past his defenders at will to start the game but wasn't able to finish much -- to 15 points on 5-of-14 shooting.
Holiday has been Team USA's second-best player throughout the Olympics. His defense speaks for itself, but his aggression on the offensive end, even when his shots aren't going, keeps the Americans moving forward. He puts pressure on you at all times, on both ends. He finished with 11 points, eight assists, eight rebounds, two steals and a blocked shot vs. Australia.
Australia had beaten Team USA in its last two meetings, both exhibitions (2019 and 2021), but the Americans improved to 9-0 over the Aussies in actual Olympic play.
"We came here with one goal and that's to win a gold medal and now we're in a position to do it," Team USA star Damian Lillard stated following their win over Australia.